DiscoverHistorical Fiction

Memento Mortale


Worth reading 😎

An original, engaging piece of work with plenty of stylistic flaws but somehow, charming overall.

With a character named Mildred Mortale (and her siblings Morgan and Marley) I knew this book was going to be quirky. In the midst of a yellow fever epidemic, the Mortale family finds itself running a funeral parlour - why not profit from something as inevitable and currently in large supply as death? But then the prescient Mildred starts to notice something odd - spirits flitting about the house, restless and distressed. Meanwhile, her brother Marley spends his time on weird biology experiments in the basement.

The idea is funny and original, the plot is bizarre, and the characters are quirky and fun (although sometimes overdrawn, as in the case of fat, overblown Aunt Camella, and sometimes underdrawn, as with Mr Mortale, who seems to be going senile but may just be an eccentric recluse). The story is paced well and unfolds naturally. The author's writing has a kind of naive charm, almost as if she were very young (which, I gather, she isn't). But she also falls into the common trap of using too many, inappropriate or cliched adjectives. Many of the conversations between characters are awkwardly phrased, such as 'I know this is a big (surprising?) suggestion' and 'I'm aware that this family has kept a mortuary business for the last several months, and most of the victims had perished of the aforementioned Yellow Fever'. Although the yellow fever epidemic in parts of the US is a historical fact, I didn't feel that the novel had any real historical flavour - for instance, would a family of that period really hold an elegant soiree for the notables of the district while using their house as a funeral parlour? Some of the characters, while fun, were also a little cliched - the nerdy science-mad Marley, the posh and arrogant Adrian Belmont-Telfair.

It's a fun story, and overall, it's well told and keeps you reading right to the end. I particularly liked the dead cat (who still sits on the bed) and Marley's collection of well-named mice. I felt very sorry for poor Widow Mary, and I thought the ghosts were very realistically conflicted about whether to stay or go - so would I be. I enjoyed the novel - but I'd have enjoyed it even more with excellent, rather than slightly child-like, writing.

Reviewed by

I'm an author but I also read a lot. I do especially like to read books by high quality indie authors, because you often get original and unconventional work which wouldn't have been picked up by the major publishers.


About the author

Angeline Walsh is a writer and indie filmmaker from Cleveland, Ohio. Her TV series, "The Coroner's Assistant" is currently in post-production. view profile

Published on June 03, 2019

Published by Old Coal Publishing

50000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by